Etruscan civilization is the modern English name given to the culture and way of life of a people of ancient Italy and Corsica, residing between the Apennines and the River Tiber, whom the ancient Romans called Etrusci or Tusci. The Attic Greek word for them was Τυρρήνιοι (Tyrrhēnioi) from which Latin also drew the names Tyrrhēni (Etruscans), Tyrrhēnia (Etruria) and Mare Tyrrhēnum (Tyrrhenian Sea). The Etruscans themselves used the term Rasenna, which was syncopated to Rasna or Raśna.
As distinguished by its own language, the civilization endured from an unknown prehistoric time prior to the founding of Rome until its complete assimilation to Italic Rome in the Roman Republic. At its maximum extent during the foundation period of Rome and the Roman kingdom, it flourished in three confederacies of cities: of Etruria, of the Po valley with the eastern Alps, and of Latium and Campania. Rome was sited in Etruscan territory. There is considerable evidence that early Rome was dominated by Etruscans until the Romans sacked Veii in 396 BC.
Culture that is identifiably and certainly Etruscan developed in Italy after about 800 BC approximately over the range of the preceding Iron Age Villanovan culture. The latter gave way in the seventh century to a culture that was influenced by Greek traders and Greek neighbours in Magna Graecia, the Hellenic civilization of southern Italy. After 500 BC the political destiny of Italy passed out of Etruscan hands.
Legend and history Edit
Origin and history Edit
The origins of the Etruscans are lost in prehistory. The main hypotheses are that they are indigenous, probably stemming from the Villanovan culture, or that they are the result of invasion from the north or the Near East.
Etruscan expansion was focused both to the north beyond the Apennines and into Campania. Some small towns in the 6th century BC have disappeared during this time, ostensibly consumed by greater, more powerful neighbors. However, there exists no doubt that the political structure of the Etruscan culture was similar, albeit more aristocratic, to Magna Graecia in the south. The mining and commerce of metal, especially copper and iron, led to an enrichment of the Etruscans and to the expansion of their influence in the Italian peninsula and the western Mediterranean sea. Here their interests collided with those of the Greeks, especially in the sixth century BC, when Phoceans of Italy founded colonies along the coast of France, Catalonia and Corsica. This led the Etruscans to ally themselves with the Carthaginians, whose interests also collided with the Greeks.
Around 540 BC, the Battle of Alalia led to a new distribution of power in the western Mediterranean Sea. Though the battle had no clear winner, Carthage managed to expand its sphere of influence at the expense of both the Etruscans and the Greeks, and Etruria saw itself relegated to the northern Tyrrhenian Sea. From the first half of the fifth century, the new international political situation meant the beginning of the Etruscan decline after losing their southern provinces. In 480 BC, Etruria's ally Carthage was defeated by a coalition of Magna Graecia cities led by Syracuse. A few years later, in 474, Syracuse's tyrant Hiero defeated the Etruscans at the Battle of Cumae. Etruria's influence over the cities of Latium and Campania weakened, and it was taken over by Romans and Samnites. In the fourth century, Etruria saw a Gallic invasion end its influence over the Po valley and the Adriatic coast. Meanwhile, Rome had started annexing Etruscan cities. This led to the loss of their north provinces. Etruscia was assimilated by Rome around 500 BC.
Heritage, founding and Populus Romanus Edit
Those who subscribe to an Italic foundation of Rome, followed by an Etruscan invasion, typically speak of an Etruscan “influence” on Roman culture; that is, cultural objects that were adopted at Rome from neighboring Etruria. The prevalent view today is that Rome was founded by Italics and merged with Etruscans later. In that case Etruscan cultural objects are not a heritage but are influences.[clarification needed]
The main criterion for deciding whether an object originated at Rome and travelled by influence to the Etruscans, or descended to the Romans from the Etruscans, is date. Many, if not most, of the Etruscan cities were older than Rome. If we find that a given feature was there first, it cannot have originated at Rome. A second criterion is the opinion of the ancient sources. They tell us outright that certain institutions and customs came from the Etruscans. Rome is located on the edge of what was Etruscan territory. When Etruscan settlements turned up south of the border, it was presumed that the Etruscans spread there after the foundation of Rome, but the settlements are now known to have preceded Rome.
Etruscan settlements were frequently built on a hill—the steeper the better—and surrounded by thick walls. According to Roman mythology, when Romulus and Remus founded Rome, they did so on the Palatine Hill according to Etruscan ritual; that is, they began with a pomoerium or sacred ditch. Then, they proceeded to the walls. Romulus was required to kill Remus when the latter jumped over the wall, breaking its magic spell (see also under Pons Sublicius). The name of Rome is believed by some to be Etruscan, occurring in a standard form stating “place from which”: Velzna-χ, “from Velzna”, Sveama-χ, “from Sveama”, Ruma-χ, “from Ruma”. We do not know what it means however. If Tiberius is from θefarie, then Ruma would have been placed on the Thefar river. A heavily discussed topic between scholars is who was the founding population of Rome. In 390 BC the city of Rome was attacked by the Gauls, and as a result may have lost many - though not all - of its earlier records. Certainly, the history of Rome before that date is not as secure as it later becomes, but enough material remains to give a good picture of the development of the city and its institutions.
Later history relates that some Etruscans lived in the Tuscus vicus, the “Etruscan quarter”, and that there was an Etruscan line of kings (albeit ones descended from a Greek, Demaratus the Corinthian) which succeeded kings of Latin and Sabine origin. Etruscophile historians would argue that this, together with evidence for institutions, religious elements and other cultural elements, prove that Rome was founded by Italics. The true picture is rather more complicated, not least because the Etruscan cities were separate entities which never came together to form a single Etruscan state. Furthermore, there were strong Latin and Italic elements to Roman culture, and later Romans proudly celebrated these multiple, 'multicultural' influences on the city.
Under Romulus and Numa the people were said to have been divided into thirty curiae and three tribes. Very few words of Etruscan entered the Latin language, but the names of at least two of the tribes — Ramnes and Luceres — seem to be Etruscan. The last kings may have borne the Etruscan title lucumo, while the regalia were traditionally considered of Etruscan origin: the golden crown, sceptre, the toga palmata (a special robe), the sella curulis (curule chair), and above all the primary symbol of state power: the fasces. The latter was a bundle of whipping rods surrounding a double-bladed axe, carried by the king's lictors. Chance has thrown an example of the fasces into our possession: remains of bronze rods and the axe come from a tomb in Etruscan Vetulonia. Now that its appearance is known, the depiction of one was identified on the grave stele of Avele Feluske, who is shown as a warrior wielding the fasces. The most telling Etruscan feature is the word populus, which appears as an Etruscan deity, Fufluns. Populus seems to mean the people assembled in a military body, rather than the general populace, however.
The historical Etruscans had achieved a state system of society, with remnants of the chiefdom and tribal forms. In this they were ahead of the surrounding Italics, who still had chiefs and tribes. Rome was in a sense the first Italic state, but it began as an Etruscan one. It is believed that the Etruscan government style changed from total monarchy to oligarchic democracy (as the Roman Republic) in the 6th century, while it is important to note this did not happen to all the city states.
The Etruscan state government was essentially a theocracy. The government was viewed as being a central authority, over all tribal and clan organizations. It retained the power of life and death; in fact, the gorgon, an ancient symbol of that power, appears as a motif in Etruscan decoration. The adherents to this state power were united by a common religion. Political unity in Etruscan society was the city-state, which was probably the referent of methlum, “district”. Etruscan texts name quite a number of magistrates, without much of a hint as to their function: the camthi, the parnich, the purth, the tamera, the macstrev, and so on. The people were the mech. The chief ruler of a methlum was perhaps a zilach.
The princely tombs were not of individuals. The inscriptional evidence shows that families were interred there over long periods, marking the growth of the aristocratic family as a fixed institution, parallel to the gens at Rome and perhaps even its model. It is not an Etruscan original, as there is no sign of it in the Villanovan. The Etruscans could have used any model of the eastern Mediterranean. That the growth of this class is related to the new acquisition of wealth through trade is unquestioned. The wealthiest cities were located near the coast. At the center of the lautn was the married couple, tusurthir. The Etruscans were a monogamous society that emphasized pairing.
Similarly the behavior of some wealthy women is not uniquely Etruscan. The apparent promiscuous revelry has a spiritual explanation. Swaddling and Bonfante (among others) explain that depictions of the nude embrace, or symplegma, "had the power to ward off evil", as did baring the breast, which was adopted by western civilization as an apotropaic device, appearing finally on the figureheads of sailing ships as a nude female upper torso. It is also possible that Greek and Roman attitudes to the Etruscans were based on a misunderstanding of the place of women within their society. In both Greece and Republican Rome, respectable women were confined to the house and mixed-sex socialising did not occur. Thus the freedom of women within Etruscan society could have been misunderstood as implying their sexual availability. It is worth noting that a number of Etruscan tombs carry funerary inscriptions in the form "X son of (father) and (mother)", indicating the importance of the mother's side of the family.
Military and Etruscan cities Edit
The Etruscans like the contemporary cultures of Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome had a significant military tradition. In addition to marking the rank and power of certain individuals in Etruscan culture, warfare was a considerable economic boon to Etruscan civilization. Like many ancient societies, the Etruscans conducted campaigns during summer months, raiding neighboring areas, attempting to gain territory and combating piracy as a means of acquiring valuable resources such as land, prestige goods and slaves. It is also likely individuals taken in battle would be ransomed back to their families and clans at high cost. Prisoners could also potentially be sacrificed on tombs as an honor to fallen leaders of Etruscan society, not unlike the sacrifices made by Achilles for Patrocles.
The range of Etruscan civilization is marked by its cities. They were entirely assimilated by Italic, Celtic or Roman ethnic groups, but the names survive from inscriptions and their ruins are of aesthetic and historic interest in most of the cities of central Italy. Etruscan cities flourished over most of Italy during the Roman Iron Age, marking the farthest extent of Etruscan civilization. They were gradually assimilated first by Italics in the south, then by Celts in the north and finally in Etruria itself by the growing Roman Republic.
That many Roman cities were formerly Etruscan was well known to all the Roman authors. The Etruscan names of the major cities in this category survived in inscriptions and are listed below. Some cities were founded by Etruscans in prehistoric times and bore entirely Etruscan names. Others were colonized by Etruscans who Etruscanized the name, usually Italic.
The Etruscan system of belief was an immanent polytheism; that is, all visible phenomena were considered to be a manifestation of divine power and that power was subdivided into deities that acted continually on the world of man and could be dissuaded or persuaded in favor of human affairs. Three layers are evident in the extensive Etruscan art motifs. One appears to be divinities of an indigenous nature: Catha and Usil, the sun, Tivr, the moon, Selvans, a civil god, Turan, the goddess of love, Laran, the god of war, Leinth, the goddess of death, Maris, Thalna, Turms and the ever-popular Fufluns, whose name is related in some unknown way to the city of Populonia and the populus Romanus. Perhaps he was the god of the people.
Ruling over this pantheon of lesser deities were higher ones that seem to reflect the Indo-European system: Tin or Tinia, the sky, Uni his wife (Juno), and Cel, the earth goddess. In addition the Greek gods were taken into the Etruscan system: Aritimi (Artemis), Menrva (Minerva), Pacha (Bacchus). The Greek heroes taken from Homer also appear extensively in art motifs.
The Architecture of the ancient Etruscans adopted the external Greek architecture for their own purposes, which were so different from Greek buildings as to create a new architectural style. The two styles are often considered one body of classical architecture. The Etruscans absorbed Greek influence, apparent in many aspects closely related to architecture. The Etruscans had much influence over Roman architecture.
Etruscan architecture made lasting contributions to the architecture of Italy, which were adopted by the Romans and through them became standard to western civilization. Rome itself is a repository of Etruscan architectural features, which perhaps did not originate with the Etruscans, but were channeled by them into Roman civilization. Some scholars also see in Urartean art, architecture, language and general culture traces of kinship to the Etruscans of the Italian peninsula.
Art, music and literature Edit
Etruscan art was the form of figurative art produced by the Etruscan civilization in northern Italy between the 9th and 2nd centuries BC. Particularly strong in this tradition were figurative sculpture in terracotta (particularly life-size on sarcophagi or temples) and cast bronze, wall-painting and metalworking (especially engraved bronze mirrors). Not much is known about their artistic style since not much written information has been found or even been released by the Etruscans. Etruscan art was strongly connected to religion; the afterlife was of major importance in Etruscan art.
The instruments seen used in Etruscan music are frescoes and bas-reliefs are essentially just different types of pipes, such as the plagiaulos (the pipes of Pan or Syrinx), the alabaster pipe and the famous double pipes, accompanied on percussion instruments such as the tintinnabulum, tympanum and crotales, and later by stringed instruments like the lyre and kithara. With the exception of the Liber Linteus, the only written records of Etruscan origin that remain are inscriptions, mainly funerary. The language is written in a script related to the primitive Euboean Greek alphabet. Etruscan literature is evidenced only in references by later Roman authors.
Language and etymology Edit
Knowledge of the Etruscan language is still far from complete. The Etruscans are believed to have spoken a non-Indo-European language; the majority consensus is that Etruscan is related only to other members of what is called the Tyrsenian language family, which in itself is an isolate family, that is, unrelated directly to other known language groups. Since Rix (1998) it is widely accepted that the Tyrsenian family groups Rhaetic and Lemnian are related to Etruscan.
No etymology exists for Rasna, the Etruscans' name for themselves. The etymology of Tusci is based on a beneficiary phrase in the third Iguvine tablet, which is a major source for the Umbrian language. The phrase is turskum ... nomen, "the Tuscan name", from which a root *Tursci can be reconstructed. A metathesis and a word-initial epenthesis produce E-trus-ci. A common hypothesis is that *Turs- along with Latin turris, "tower", come from Greek τύρσις, "tower." The Tusci were therefore the "people who build towers" or "the tower builders." This venerable etymology is at least as old as Dionysius of Halicarnassus, who said "And there is no reason why the Greeks should not have called them by this name, both from their living in towers and from the name of one of their rulers."
Giuliano and Larissa Bonfante (Bonfante 2002) speculate that Etruscan houses seemed like towers to the simple Latins. It is true that the Etruscans preferred to build hill towns on high precipices enhanced by walls. On the other hand if the Tyrrhenian name came from an incursion of sea peoples or later migrants (see below) then it might well be related to the name of Troy, the city of towers in that case.
- ↑ According to Félix Gaffiot's Dictionnaire Illustré Latin Français, Tusci was used by the major authors of the Roman Republic: Livy, Cicero, Horace, etc. A number of cognate words developed: Tuscia, Tusculanensis, etc. This was clearly the major word used for things Etruscan. Etrusci and Etrūria were used less often, mainly by Cicero and Horace, and without cognates. According to the Online Etymological Dictionary, the English use of Etruscan dates from 1706.
- ↑ Gaffiot's.
- ↑ Rasenna comes from Dionysius of Halicarnassus I.30.3. The syncopated form, Rasna, is inscriptional and is inflected. The topic is covered in Pallottino, page 133. Some inscriptions, such as the cippus of Cortona, feature the Raśna (pronounced Rashna) alternative, as is described in Gabor Z. Bodroghy's site, The Palaeolinguistic Connection, under Origins.
- ↑ A good map of the Italian range and cities of the culture at the beginning of its history can be found at , the mysteriousetruscans.com site. The topic of the "League of Etruria" is covered in Freeman, pages 562-565. The league in northern Italy is mentioned in Livy, Book V, Section 33. The passage also identifies the Raetii as a remnant of the 12 cities "beyond the Apennines." The Campanian Etruscans are mentioned (among many sources) by Polybius, (II.17). The entire subject with complete ancient sources in footnotes was worked up by George Dennis in his Introduction. In the LacusCurtius transcription, the references in Dennis's footnotes link to the texts in English or Latin; the reader may also find the English of some of them on WikiSource or other Internet sites. As the work has already been done by Dennis and Thayer, the complete work-up is not repeated here.
- ↑ Cary, M.; Scullard, H. H., A History of Rome. Page 28. 3rd Ed. 1979. ISBN 0312383959.
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 Larissa Bonfante. "Etruscan life and afterlife". Google Books. http://books.google.com/books?id=4QaXZky58FIC&pg=PA58&dq=Etruscan+League#PPR5,M1. Retrieved 2009-04-22.
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 John Franklin Halll. "Etruscan Italy". Google Books. http://books.google.com/books?id=bUhT7i7XhOAC&pg=PA198&dq=Etruscan+League. Retrieved 2009-04-22.
- ↑ "Etruscans, Part Five: Expansion". Crystal Links. http://history-world.org/etruscanexpansion_and_dominion.htm. Retrieved 2009-04-24.
- ↑ 10.0 10.1 Mario Torelli. The Etruscans. Rizzoli International Publications.
- ↑ 11.0 11.1 Trevor Dupey. The Harper Encyclopedia of Military History. Rizzoli Harper Collins Publisher.
- ↑ Dora Jane Hamblin. The Etruscans. Time Life Books.
- ↑ 13.0 13.1 De Grummond and Nancy Thomson (2006). Etruscan Mythology, Sacred History and Legend: An Introduction. University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology.
- ↑ 14.0 14.1 Erika Simon. "The religion of the Etruscans". Google Books. http://books.google.com/books?id=hQtbJyFCd40C&pg=PA1&dq=Etruscan+religion. Retrieved 2009-04-22.
- ↑ Axel Boëthius, Roger Ling and Tom Rasmussen (1994). Etruscan and early Roman architecture. Yale University Press.
- ↑ Vahan M. Kurkjian (2006). History of Armenia. University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology.
- ↑ Spivey, Nigel (1997). Etruscan Art. London: Thames and Hudson.
- ↑ "Etrusca". The Culture Traveler.com. http://www.theculturedtraveler.com/Museums/Archives/U_Penn.htm. Retrieved 2009-04-22.
- ↑ Paper entitled Cui Bono? The Beneficiary Phrases of the Third Iguvine Table by Michael Weiss and published on-line by Cornell University at .
- ↑ Carl Darling Buck (1904), A Grammar of Oscan and Umbian, Boston: Gibb & Company, Introduction, available online at  the forumromanum.org site.
- ↑ Eric Partridge (1983), Origins, New York: Greenwich House, under "tower."
- ↑ 22.0 22.1 The Bonfantes (2003), page 51
- ↑ Partridge
- ↑ Book I, Section 30.
- Cities and Cemeteries of Etruria, the book by George Dennis at LacusCurtius
- Etruscan News Online, the Newsletter of the American Section of the Institute for Etruscan and Italic Studies.
- Mysterious Etruscans, community dedicated to the preservation of Etruscan culture.
Cities and sitesEdit
- (Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici dell'Umbria) "The Cai Cutu Etruscan tomb" An undisturbed late Etruscan family tomb, reused between the 3rd and 1st century BC, reassembled in the National Archeological Museum of Perugia
- Etruscan Splendors from Volterra in Tuscany
- Etruscan Lion Plaque Pendant, article on a piece of Etruscan art.
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